The Harlan County Fiscal Court discussed the recent downsizing the Office of Employment and Training and attempts to persuade the state to leave the Harlan branch intact during a meeting on Tuesday.
Magistrate David Kennedy updated the panel on his recent discussion of the situation with Gov. Matt Bevin.
“I had the opportunity to talk face to face with the governor,” Kennedy said. “We talked in detail about trying to save the unemployment office. Sad to say, I didn’t get anywhere.”
Kennedy said Bevin advised he felt closing the office was the best move for the state as a whole.
“His comment was he would rather be handing out paychecks than food stamps and Medicaid,” Kennedy said. “He also informed me that he is focused more on Harlan County than any (previous) governor…He keeps telling me the same thing, that we have to be patient, and there will be economic development and help is on the way for Harlan County.”
Kennedy said he disagreed with closing the office.
“My argument was that we have some of the highest unemployment in the state, and it would cause undue hardship on our people as far as having to travel two or three counties over to get the same services we were getting here. Plus, the state of Kentucky owns this building.”
Kennedy said Bevin told him there were going to be more consolidations across the state.
“Essentially, it didn’t do any good at all,” Kennedy said. “That’s where we’re at. This is the fourth time the governor’s told me help’s on the way. We’re just going to have to see what happens. He just keeps telling me the same thing over and over.”
Mosley pointed out a letter the court sent to Frankfort addressing the issue was also unsuccessful.
“I never got a response to the letter we sent or the resolution this court passed,” Mosley said. “Basically they said they weren’t turning back, they were closing 31 of them across the state and this is the way it’s going to be.”
Mosley said every effort was made to save the office.
“I wish we had been successful, but at the end of the day it’s their call,” Mosley said.
Mosley added EKCEP will be providing some assistance.
According to the EKCEP (Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program) website at http://www.ekcep.org/about-us EKCEP helps workers and businesses in Eastern Kentucky meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of today’s economy. EKCEP operates the Kentucky Career Center JobSight network of workforce centers, which provide access to more than a dozen state and federal programs that offer employment and training assistance for jobseekers and employers.
“EKCEP has stepped up to the plate through CAA (Harlan County Community Action Agency) to continue providing some assistance to people who are trying to get signed up for their benefits,” Mosley said. “People that are unemployed can go there to get assistance signing up for benefits rather than having to drive to Hazard.”
In other court activity:
• The court accepted a bid from Ash Mountain for construction of the Veteran’s Walking Trail at Sleepy Hollow;
• A resolution approving an amendment to the inter-local agreement creating the Bluegrass and Central Kentucky Unified Police Protection System was approved;
• The Harlan County Clerk’s Excess Fees check in the amount of $40,000 was accepted;
• The 2017 Kentucky Waste Tire Management Program Agreement was approved;
• The court accepted the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office Statement of Receipts for 2016;
• The Harlan County Sheriff’s audit for the year ended Dec. 31, 2015 was accepted;
• Harlan County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Matt Cope was appointed to the Harlan Airport Board to fill the unexpired term of Joseph Bennett;
• Linda Blevins was appointed to the Harlan County Public Library Board of Trustees;
• Permission to apply for a Kentenia Forest/Great Eastern Trailhead project grant was granted;
• The court approved applying for a Kentucky Office of Homeland Security grant;
• Permission was granted to apply for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Grants for the Harlan County Justice Center, the Harlan County Detention Center and the Behnam Schoolhouse Inn.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde